GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster ahead of July 28, the first practice of training camp. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.
No. 31: T/G Royce Newman (6-5, 310; 23; rookie; Mississippi)
At Nashville (Ill.) High School, Newman played tight end and was all-state in basketball. Offensive line, however, would be his ticket to the NFL.
“In high school, I pretty much did everything but O-line,” he said during rookie camp. “Played receiver, tight end, defense, really everywhere. College coaches saw me as an offensive lineman, so once I got to the facility in college, I just kept developing every year, took advantage of my redshirt year and gained the weight and learned how to play offensive line. Playing tight end and receiver kind of helped me getting prepared with footwork and agility.”
The Packers used a fourth-round pick on Newman, who started 12 games at left guard as a junior and 10 games at right tackle as a senior. He played guard and right tackle during the offseason practices and could be in the mix for a starting job as a rookie.
“He has that O-line mentality. He’s a country kid, he’s hungry, he’s humble,” one team’s area scout said. “He fits the outside-zone stuff. He played four or five positions there at Ole Miss. He can get out and move. He’s always going to be an overachiever. He’s going to be the kind of guy that you want to try to replace but he’s going to find a way to get it done every year and you’re going to look up and it’s going to be 12 years and he’s going to be your most consistent offensive linemen. He was a fun interview. Fifteen minutes is over and you want to keep talking to him because he’s a good, smart, tough, gritty kid. Like I said, he could be a four-position backup at the very least if not a starter.
No. 32: QB Blake Bortles (6-5, 236; 29; seventh season; Central Florida)
There’s no guarantee Bortles will make the final roster. That’s especially true if Aaron Rodgers returns. The Packers could go with Rodgers, Jordan Love and Kurt Benkert as the developmental third quarterback.
But what if Rodgers doesn’t return and Love moves into the starter’s role? In that case, Love could use a pair of veteran eyes to help him navigate his first year as a starter. A first-round pick in 2014, the 29-year-old Bortles has started 73 regular-season games and led the Jaguars to one AFC Championship Game. He’s seen just about everything during his time in the NFL and would be a valuable resource for a young quarterback under an intense spotlight. Plus, obviously, if Love were to be injured, Bortles’ experience would give the Packers a fighting chance to stay afloat.
“Blake is a great dude,” Love said. “He obviously brings a lot of experience and knowledge of the game. As a young guy that hasn’t been out there in any games yet, he’s a great person to just talk to and ask questions about how it actually is out there on the field and what he sees and experiences he’s gone through.”
After almost reaching the Super Bowl in 2017, everything went off the rails for Bortles and the Jaguars in 2018. Bortles went 3-9 as the starter and Nathaniel Hackett was fired as offensive coordinator. Bortles threw two passes in 2019 with the Rams and didn’t see any action in 2020. He has a funky release in which his right elbow dips down and then moves back up. Those mechanics have never been taught a quarterback coach in the history of mankind. In limited action during the offseason practices, his accuracy was inconsistent. Based on those practices, it’s hard to believe he could beat out Love for the No. 1 job.
“I think if you look around the league, everybody throws it a little bit differently,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “It’s all about timing and accuracy, obviously making the correct decisions, but as long as the ball gets to where it needs to be in the timing of the play, that’s really what we’re looking for.”
No. 33: TE Marcedes Lewis (6-6, 267; 37; 16th season; UCLA)
Jacksonville’s first-round pick in 2006, Lewis once upon a time was a dual-threat tight end. He averaged 43 receptions during a six-year span from 2007 through 2012 and scored 10 touchdowns in 2010. Now, Lewis is a rough-and-tumble blocker who relishes doing the dirty work as a key part of LaFleur’s offense. In three seasons with the Packers, he’s caught a total of 28 passes. But his tenacity, wisdom and leadership ability have made him a valuable and respected member of the team.
“He is such a special human and the greatest, in my opinion, blocking tight end, definitely of his generation,” Rodgers said before the NFC Championship Game. “But what he brings from a personal standpoint, you can't quantify that. You really can’t. You can't put a stat on that, but you can feel it. It's palpable. It's tangible. You can really reach out and touch that energy and that positivity and that love that he has for the guys, for myself. He’s such a support beam for me. I can lean on him. He’s like a big oak tree.”
Lewis’ goal was to play 10 seasons in the NFL. Instead, this will be Year 16. He was one of six players – two are specialists – from the 2006 draft to still be playing in 2020. Having turned 37 in May, he is the oldest tight end in the NFL.
After playing 45 percent of the snaps in 2019 and 41 percent in 2020, Lewis could take on an even bigger role if Green Bay turns to more of a run-first attack with Love at quarterback. Whatever the role, Lewis will be ready.
“When I came into the league, I had a lot of catches, won the Mackey Award, a lot of touchdowns, set records at UCLA, but the question was, would I be able to block full-time at this level?” Lewis said before the title game. “And it’s just one of those situations where I took the bull by the horns and honed in on that craft. And I’ve been able to round myself out as being an all-around tight end. I understand that my type is not necessarily in the league as much anymore, and there’s a premium with what I can do. I get the same excitement out of pancaking a guy or making a great block as I do catching a touchdown or making a great catch.”
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